Kids can be cruel. In elementary school, anything that sets you apart can be a catalyst for open ridicule and teasing. Not only was I one of the ONLY Asian students in the entire school – which by the way was in a small town, so the ENTIRE school was not that big, but in the sea of Anglo Saxons, my black hair, slanted eyes, and unique name made me stand out big time. And I was also one of the smartest girls in every class I was in. (How’s that for stereotype?)
My name was devised by my mother. “Hanssie” is the phonetic spelling of my Chinese name. It means a type of poem from the “Han” people, who are the largest ethnic group in China. It is pronounced pretty much how it is spelled (rhymes with “fancy.”)
For a little girl longing to fit in with everyone else, I hated my name. But even more so, coupled with the fact that I have no middle name, and my maiden last name was “Ho.” Yes, that’s right, even as I type this I cringe. It was bad enough in grade school, but man, in high school…well, you can only imagine. Imagine the awkwardness of high school and add puberty and emotions and acne and the name “Hanssie Ho.” How unimaginably cruel. (And the horror remained after college when I had to go back to the same high school as a substitute teacher…that’s a story for another day)
In college, to my immense relief, I got engaged to a man with a relatively normal last name. Even so, when our wedding announcement made it to the papers, the “Ho-Trainer” wedding made its debut on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show as one of the “Headlines.” Go ahead and laugh. It’s pretty funny, especially since the paper misspelled “Trainor.”
Today, I am proud of my name. It’s exclusively mine and it is unshared by anyone else I know or come in contact with. I am honored by my family name and it will always be a part of me (even though the second I said “I do,” I was at the social security office with my forms filled out!) Strange as it sounds my name has shaped me into the person I am today.